A beautifully decorated floral saucer, a simple white cup with a metallic golden rim, an art-deco style bowl of sugar cubes, a mid-century modern pitcher of cream, a small plate painted with a scene of a man and a woman in colorful dress beneath a tree: this spectacular collection of dishes covers a water-facing table at Seagate, the winter home of Powel Crosley, and the current location of Simply Gourmet’s weekly Royal Tea event.
Inspired by the English Royal Family’s annual tea, Sarasota-area residents can enjoy a similar experience at 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays through the end of March. It's hosted at Powel Crosley’s mansion in northern Sarasota, built in 1929 as the winter home of the notable radio, car and manufacturing entrepreneur.
Guests are seated on the upper level of the home in several rooms, including an open-air balcony, at elegantly-decorated tables topped with fresh roses, deep burgundy tablecloths and a variety of teacups, saucers and plates.
Hot tea is served immediately, a traditional black English variety, and attendees are free to add cream or sugar cubes to their drinks. Tea is accompanied by small finger sandwiches: egg salad, cucumber, chicken and turkey. The dessert, a collection of small but decadent treats, includes strawberry shortcake, a coconut macaroon, a fruit tart with berries and mandarin oranges, a fudgy walnut brownie, an amaretti cookie and a scone.
The tea and food are augmented by the view of Sarasota Bay, the pleasant early spring weather, and the unique architecture of the Seagate mansion. From the outdoor seating, guests can feel the breeze from the bay and watch birds and boats travel past; those seated inside enjoy rooms with wooden walls, luxurious curtains and colorful rugs.
The event attracts many well-dressed guests, and even has regulars, some of whom have attended annually for as many as 8 years. The service is a social gathering for locals who enjoy the opportunity to eat English-inspired treats, drink tea and spend time looking out on the bay with friends or family.
Although the atmosphere and location of Simply Gourmet’s tea differ a bit from that of the original’s, the food, tea and service are a near-perfect replica of a traditional royal English tea service.
Tickets are $35. Royal tea services continue through March 29.